Finding a remedy for high energy use is creating healthy connections between staff at Wellington's Capital Coast District Health Board.

The CCDHB, which provides hospital and specialist health services to the greater Wellington area, began looking at ways it could cut its $5 million-a-year energy bills back in 2012, through a partnership with EECA.

With the help of analysis from power saving experts, Energy Solution Providers, it set itself a goal of cutting 40 per cent off its energy use by 2021.

Already it has banked $1 million in savings on gas and electricity bills.

Advertisement

While most of the opportunities identified were technical in nature - switching on LED lighting and upgrading the building management system at the main Wellington Regional Hospital - an organisation-wide sustainability group provided the fix for communicating between the technical projects and the 4000 full-time staff employed by the CCDHB.

And it's a collaboration that has improved the long-term wellbeing of energy saving initiatives.

CCDHB facilities and engineering operations manager Leon Clews says while his team was managing the smooth execution of "behind the walls" upgrades with minimal disruption to the day-to-day health service operations, he could steer enquiries and questions about energy management back to a group that had a broader view of sustainability within the DHB.

Originally a collection of CCDHB staff with an interest in the environment, the development of the energy efficiency plan has boosted interest in all areas of sustainability and it now has dedicated support at executive level.

"What that achieved was that the sustainability steering group became a formal group within the organisation as opposed to a bunch of people meeting informally to discuss what the opportunities were and not being able to get traction."

With sustainability officer Valentino Luna Hernandez now on board the organisation has a focal point to bring sustainability ideas, have them considered against business objectives and make sure they get into the right workstreams, says Clews.

"It brought it all together really, really well," he says.

A cornerstone of the power saving plan was an energy efficiency statement of intent signed off a board level.

One of the objectives of the statement of intent was to educate staff on how they could save energy when not at work, says Clews.

"We recognise that 10 per cent of our total savings opportunity will be about behaviour - it's not all technical solutions - so in the statement of intent it's very clear we'll need to educate staff as to what they can do at home.

"If they're in the mindset of doing it at home they're in the mindset of switching off lights at work," he says.

"The sustainability working group is where we're focusing those efforts because it keeps everyone coming back to one location and it's a location that's robust regardless of any changes in organisational structure."

Clews says the traction created by the sustainability group is growing daily.

"I've seen more ideas come up from staff in the last two years than I have in the five or six years prior."

Luna Hernandez says it's also strengthening staff morale.

"Staff feel they are coming to work in a progressive, forward-looking organisation because we're not sitting comfortably on our hands.

"We're actually trying to innovate and provide the best possible value for money in facilities management," says Luna Hernandez.

Money saved on energy use is money that can be directed towards healthcare.
In its initial analysis Energy Solutions Providers identified $1.3 million worth of energy savings with a payback of less than five years.

So far the installation of LED lighting has saved approximately $37,000 per year, with a recalibration of the ventilation controls in the underground carpark at Wellington Regional Hospital saving another $10,000 a year.

The biggest project to date has been overhauling the building management system at Wellington Regional Hospital.

It was the source of many complaints - areas were either too hot or too cold - with inefficient management of heating and cooling leading to wasted energy.

The replacement of 10,000 control points across a variety of clinical spaces while keeping the hospital running business as usual could have been fraught, but Clews says work in the planning stages meant there no problems during implementation.

There has been a significant downturn in complaints about room temperatures.

Over the longer term approximately 15 buildings within CCDHB's 76 building portfolio are being seriously looked at for energy saving opportunities.

The early success and low interest Crown loans available through EECA has provided the CCDHB with the confidence to turn its attention to the next phase of projects.

"The 40 per cent target looks real, absolutely real, and it's still the target," says Clews.

"The timeframe and these early projects are keeping the momentum up as we've been successful and we want to keep building on those."